Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Nylander, the Senators & Milano

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at part of the other side of William Nylander. He’s a hard worker in practice and seems to be a supportive teammate.

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Second, I’ll take a look at the Ottawa Senators. Given the offseason moves that the team has made, in addition to the young players it already has on the squad, in my opinion, they are one of the up-and-coming teams in the Atlantic Division. 

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Finally, I’ll take a quick look at the Sonny Milano watch. I’ve been watching where he might land and wondering if he might be an out-of-left-field option for the Maple Leafs – perhaps on a PTO come training camp.

Item One: William Nylander Is a Supportive Teammate

Like him or not, and many Maple Leafs’ fans don’t because they believe he avoids contact on the ice, there’s one thing you can say about William Nylander. He’s supportive of his teammates. 

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In doing my research for the recent post on Pierre Engvall, I came across a story about Nylander going out for dinner with his teammate and fellow Swedish country-mate Engvall. In the middle of the dinner, Engvall noted that Nylander turned to him to give him this compliment.

Nylander told Engvall, “It’s just so nice to see the way you’ve grown as a player and the way you’ve excelled this year.”

When asked about it later, Nylander confessed and noted that “obviously, being a Swede, you want to take care of the Swedes around you — and I’ve been proud to see the way he’s grown.”

Related: How to Talk Like a Hockey Player

The other thing that I’ve heard several times, including from Connor Brown is that Nylander is the hardest working Maple Leafs’ player at practice. He’s one of the first out on the practice ice and he practices his skills relentlessly.

Item Two: Watch Out for the Ottawa Senators

Obviously, when you write about the Maple Leafs you try to cover all things Maple Leafs. However, it’s tough not to be impressed with the team the Ottawa Senators are going to ice for the 2022-23 regular season. The biggest addition was Alex DeBrincat, who’s already put up two 40-goal seasons at the age of 24. 

Alex DeBrincat Chicago Blackhawks
Alex DeBrincat, formerly with the Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

But DeBrincat isn’t alone on this rising team. A number of forwards seem to be pushing to maturity all at the same time. These include Brady Tkachuk (30 goals and 37 assists, for 67 points), Tim Stützle (22 goals and 36 assists, for 58 points), Joshua Norris (35 goals and 20 assists, for 55 points ), and Drake Batherson (17 goals and 27 assists, for 44 points in only 46 games). All four set career-highs in points last season. Any of them could move to a point-a-game pace next season.

Perhaps one of the biggest pick-ups for the Senators is Claude Giroux, who adds some veteran leadership. By the way, he’s also a great playmaker who’s been consistently productive and shows no signs of slowing down. And, 25-year-old Thomas Chabot is a solid offensive defenseman. Chabot is joined by 20-year-old Jake Sanderson, who was the Senators’ first-round draft choice (fifth overall) in the 2020 NHL Entry draft and just finished last season in NCAA hockey at the University of North Dakota.

Related: A Blackhawks Farewell to Debrincat, Dach, Strome & More

The Senators finished 34 points behind the fourth-place Boston Bruins, but I have to think they’ll overtake the Bruins for fourth place in the Atlantic Division. I think they are clearly a notch above their other division rivals the Detroit Red Wings, the Buffalo Sabres, and the Montreal Canadiens. If it isn’t this season, they are destined to not be a bottom-feeder much longer. Perhaps they showed a sign of that last season when they won seven of their last 10 games.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

As the Maple Leafs prepare for their training camp, one unsigned free agent I’m watching is Sonny Milano. Given that he’s a left-winger and the Maple Leafs seem to need to upgrade that position on their second line, I’m wondering if the organization might be looking at him for a possible PTO if he remains unsigned when training camp comes along. 

Sonny Milano Anaheim Ducks
Sonny Milano, when he was with the Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He can score, might be available, and might be inexpensive. Last season, Milano showed scoring promise by scoring 14 goals and adding 20 assists (for 34 points) in 66 games for the Anaheim Ducks. In addition, his advanced analytics suggest that Milano – playing five-on-five – made the Ducks a better team when he was in their lineup.

Related: Maple Leafs Need Top Lines Changes

Who knows? But, it would seem that Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas might be gearing up for a move or two more prior to training camp’s beginning.